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Quick-Service, Fast-Casual Restaurant Gift Card Sales Outpace Upscale Competitors, Study Finds

With fine dining having taken a hit amid the pandemic, quick service and fast-casual restaurant gift cards are holding steady and even seeing a bit of growth, a new study by Paytronix finds.

Sales of restaurant gift cards plunged by more than 30 percent over the Black Friday shopping weekend compared to the same period last year, according to Paytronix, which operates a digital guest experience platform used by restaurant chains for loyalty programs.

But quick-service chains saw a much more modest decline in gift card sales, which, after falling 3.6 percent on Black Friday, bounced back to post a .7 percent increase in the number of cards sold over the remainder of the weekend.

And even as overall sales numbers dipped a bit on Black Friday, customers who bought gift cards loaded more money onto them, with the total amount rising 4.6 percent.

Fast-casual gift card sales were “mixed,” with some chains seeing big declines while others “tripled sales thanks to rich bonus offers,” Paytronix said.

Overall, Paytronix looked at gift card sales by 175 different brands over the three-day period between Black Friday on Nov. 27 and Sunday, Nov. 29.

“The more upscale the restaurant, the greater the decline we saw in gift card sales during the Black Friday shopping weekend,” said Lee Barnes, head of data insights at Paytronix. “This likely means that fewer people will be giving restaurant gift cards as a gift, almost certainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, shoppers seem to be focusing on those cards that have bonus cash promotions, possibly as a gift to themselves.”

The numbers are particularly significant because of what they say about gift card sales in December, which typically amount to upwards of 50 percent of annual restaurant gift card sales, according to Paytronix.

The Black Friday shopping season “traditionally acts as a barometer of upcoming trends throughout the holiday season,” the firm noted in a press release on its study.

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